A theory of autism bridging across levels of description

Jean Paul Noel, Dora E. Angelaki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Autism impacts a wide range of behaviors and neural functions. As such, theories of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are numerous and span different levels of description, from neurocognitive to molecular. We propose how existent behavioral, computational, algorithmic, and neural accounts of ASD may relate to one another. Specifically, we argue that ASD may be cast as a disorder of causal inference (computational level). This computation relies on marginalization, which is thought to be subserved by divisive normalization (algorithmic level). In turn, divisive normalization may be impaired by excitatory-to-inhibitory imbalances (neural implementation level). We also discuss ASD within similar frameworks, those of predictive coding and circular inference. Together, we hope to motivate work unifying the different accounts of ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-641
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • algorithm
  • biological instantiation
  • causal inference
  • computation
  • divisive normalization
  • marginalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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